An interesting article in the Times about online reputation management today made me ponder an aspect of search engines which I had never previously had cause to consider – how a person could rid the searchable web of all traces of themselves.
Freelancer Bernhard Warner explained that an acquaintance of his had requested he expunge her from his blog, asserting that she wanted to be unGoogleable (I should mention that while that is an excellent word, Mr Warner has not coined it. As an interesting aside, though, the Urban Dictionary defines unGoogleable as meaning “effectively anonymous” online – marketers take note!).
He explained that although the majority of people and organisations are keen to maximise their visibility and online presence, there are a number of firms and individuals which – for the sake of their reputation – want to obliterate all mentions of themselves online.
“Monitoring your personal reputation in this Web 2.0 age is a real chore,” Mr Warner explained, adding that for big corporations it can be even harder.
“The majority of us all will show up on Google (or worse, a wanton namesake will) at some point in our lives. If you don’t like the look of it, then fill your life with good online deeds and hope they float to the top of the rankings,” he glibly advised – much easier said than done for the average graduate!
I do find it interesting though that despite the recent focus on individuals’ online footprints, the long-term effect on a business is not so often discussed. People are constantly warned that the picture of them vomiting onto a sheep during a hilarious Duke of Edinburgh expedition may not be so funny three years on when they are trying to get a job as an accountant.
Yet, businesses are even more at risk online as there can be organisations deliberately smearing their reputation – from irate bloggers to the competition – or even protest groups, particularly among the larger businesses.
In the long term, just as search engine optimisation became a necessary marketing tool for firms, online reputation management is likely to develop into a standard requirement.